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Hindsight

March 30, 2018
By Pastor Peter Heckert

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Hindsight
Isaiah 52-53

+ Grace to you, and peace, from God, our heavenly Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. + Amen.

Awake, awake, put on your strength, O Zion; put on your beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city; for there shall no more come into you the uncircumcised and the unclean. Shake yourself from the dust and arise; be seated, O Jerusalem; loose the bonds from your neck, O captive daughter of Zion. For thus says the Lord: “You were sold for nothing, and you shall be redeemed without money.” …

Behold, my servant shall act wisely; he shall be high and lifted up, and shall be exalted. As many were astonished at you—his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of the children of mankind—so shall he sprinkle many nations. Kings shall shut their mouths because of him, for that which has not been told them they see, and that which they have not heard they understand.

Who has believed what he has heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people? And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth.

Yet … it was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities.

Hindsight is 20/20. That’s what we say. We compare Isaiah’s prophecy here with the events we just heard in John’s Gospel. There is no doubt in our minds WHO it is that Isaiah is talking about here. We don’t wonder who this suffering servant of YHWH is; we KNOW.

Isaiah says of the suffering servant, his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of the children of mankind. John speaks of One Who is flogged, Whom soldiers strike with their fists, and Who has a thorny crown pressed onto His head until the blood flows. His bloodied purple robe, His open wounds, His bruised and swollen body no doubt made it difficult to ascertain if He was really human or not.

Isaiah writes how the servant of YHWH is oppressed and afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth. John writes of One Who, at a moment when He could have spoken and given the answer that would have freed Him, didn’t say a word. Even after the prefect’s prompting, all He would say is, You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above. Therefore he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin. He doesn’t even try to talk the prefect out of giving the sinful crowd what they want: His life. Instead, He silently … and obediently … submits.

According to Isaiah, the servant of YHWH would be pierced for our transgressions. John describes One who was pierced through with nails to secure Him to the beams of a cross, and how He would, after death, be pierced with a spear to ensure that He was truly dead. There are numerous other examples – too many to address here and now. But when you follow the evidence, it’s plain to see just Who this suffering servant of YHWH is. His Name is Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph and Mary.

But here’s the thing: the Roman Empire crucified countless people – criminals, enemy soldiers, innocent people who were just in the wrong place at the wrong time. So many… suffered a death similar to this. Why was THIS crucifixion, THIS innocent Man, any different from the countless others? Why is His death any different? Isaiah provides the answer.

[H]e was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. This Jesus, Whom John the Baptist declared to be the Lamb of God, Who takes away the sin of the world, is dying for a specific purpose. OUR transgressions … OUR iniquities … OUR sins … and those of every human being who has ever lived or ever will live is taken up by the Lamb of God. Only God could bear the full brunt of that summation of sin, and THAT is the true agony, the hell that Jesus had to endure. GOD … was made to bear sin – more than that, to become sin – that sin would die with Him.

Yes, as His lifeblood drains, as His breath becomes more ragged and sparse, as the cross does exactly what it was designed to do – extinguish human life – our sin … dies with Him. John wrote, When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. He gave up His spirit, and the great salvific work was accomplished. God died, that we, His creatures … would live. Sin … is now atoned for. The blood-price demanded, the life-sacrifice necessary for even the slightest of slights … the impossibly high cost that we could never hope to pay, even if we had eternity to do so … is paid. Your sins … my sins … the sins of all people from all time … are covered.

THIS is why it is “Good Friday.” It is a somber day, when we recall how YHWH’s suffering servant did, in fact, suffer TREMENDOUSLY … for you … and for me. It is a day of darkness, as the Son of God gives up His spirit. It is a tragic day, as the One Who’s very Name means “salvation” is crushed and put to grief to secure salvation for us. It is a day … sad beyond words, as the love of our Creator is put on full display, when the Father wouldn’t spare His only-begotten Son to bear OUR sins … into the grave.

On this solemn day, Jesus does what we could never even hope to do: He justifies. He removes the curse first placed on all Mankind when Adam and Eve sinned. That’s gone. It’s paid for. Because of His sacrifice, many ARE accounted righteous, precisely because He has borne their iniquities. We were sold into sin for nothing. Now … we are redeemed without money, but rather with the holy, innocent, bitter sufferings and death, with the sacrifice of that precious, holy Body and Blood.

In the deafening silence, as the curtain is torn asunder, as the earth quakes and the rocks split, as creation is undone with Body of the lifeless God … we wait … for the coming dawn … for the first-fruit of the promise…

+ Amen. +